Picture Drama

Lord, y’all, I am in Picture Drama Hell. I’m trying to get Gannett to give me permission to use two photos that ran in the Tennessean in the book. One is of Charles Reed, who told the FBI that he had helped John Kasper hide explosives before Hattie Cotton blew up. The other is of Gladys Girgenti in her Klan regalia standing in front of the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest at the State Capitol because that picture makes me want to laugh and scream every time I see it.

So, I contact the Tennessean and ask for the person up the chain who can give me photo permission. I email that person with the details of my book, the details of the photos I want–what issues they appeared in, what pages, the names of the photographers.

This person emails me back and says she needs all the information I’ve already provided her and links to the photos on the paper’s site. And she calls me “Jean.” At that point, I knew it was going to be stupid, so I let it sit for a while.

I emailed her back and was like “Oops, I think you meant for that email to go to someone else (namely this Jean person) because I already gave you all this information, but here it is again. And here are some screenshots from newspapers.com of the photos.”

Long story short, basically, she won’t hunt photos down. If a Gannett newspaper doesn’t have the photo up on their website, she can’t/won’t find it or give you permission to use it.

But that’s very typical of Gannett. That’s not the crazy part. The crazy part is that she also lectures me about the futility of contacting anyone at the Tennessean because all they can do is send me back to her.

Folks, I got two more emails from her lecturing me about contacting other people for help when she’s told me no, lecturing me about expecting her to track down photos, etc. etc. Then she asked for my phone number! I guess so that she could lecture me on the phone?

In her last email to me, she said that even if I somehow tracked down the photos, she was going to charge me $400 a piece to use them.

To give you a sense of how this hit me, you should know that the permissions fee that I was quoted from the Library for using the Banner photographs was “We don’t want to make this too onerous for you. Let’s see what you need and we’ll work something out.” But when I asked them for permission to use some photos in slides in a lecture, they only charged me $50. That’s $50 for all the photos, not $50 a piece.

Also, I’ve been working with the Associated Press to get photos of non-Nashvillian racists and, even though their website price is over $300 a picture (which, frankly, when you experience the amount of work they put into finding you the right picture seems utterly worth it. They gave me at least two options for every person and they tracked down photos at a university and made sure I saw those!), they’re working a deal with me to bring those down to about half that.

Basically, usually, when you’re like “Hey, I’m paying for my own permissions,” places try to make it possible for you to afford to pay them.

This woman at Gannett does not have that ethos.

I haven’t completely given up hope. I found myself with a small battalion of really helpful Tennessean folks and I’m hoping something might shake out today.

But I think there’s a 50/50 chance that I’m going to end up with this book in which the Tennessean figures very prominently because its publisher was bombed, because they basically owned the reporting of these bombings as they happened, because their reporters were delightfully funny, which makes it fun to quote them, and because it seems like the terrorists were aware they needed to figure the Tennessean in as a potential roadblock to terrorist activities in Nashville, but have no Tennessean photos in the book.